Lives of the noble Grecian and Romans

In this post and a few subsequent posts, I will write about the lives of some nobles of Greece and Rome as recorded by Plutarch in his book by the same title and list a few of the laws these fellows made or their systems of government. I will not write of their failures, call it bias, but that is not my interest for the moment. Anyone interested can write about that.

In the next posts, I will have for the title of the blog post, just the name of the particular leader and followed by his laws.

For this post we will cover Solon and Lycurgus

One of the laws of Solon I agree with is where he forbade dowries to be given; the wife was to have three suites of clothes, a little inconsiderable household stuff and that was all for he would not have marriages contracted for gain or an estate but for pure love, kind affection and birth of children.

He at the same enacted a law that no man for the future should engage the body of his debtor for security.

Now about Lycurgus,

here is a man who resigned a kingdom.

He caused his citizens to cast away their gold or silver and abandon costly furniture and rich tables.

He instituted communal eating places.

He instituted strict education for the youth.

I will mention one other regulation he instituted touching on burials. To cut off all superstition, he allowed the citizens to bury their dead within the city and even round their temples, to the end that their youth might be accustomed to such spectacles and not be afraid to see a dead body or imagine that to touch a corpse or tread upon a grave would defile a man.



About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

18 thoughts on “Lives of the noble Grecian and Romans

  1. As much as I would agree with some of these regulations from a pragmatic p.o.v. I staunchly believed that NO ONE should ever force/coerce anyone into doing anything besides what themselves would have wanted. Suggesting is one thing, but anything beyond that is aggression.


    • makagutu says:

      I agree with you that anything beyond suggesting is aggression. Solon managed to convince the Grecians without the use of force. Lycurgus did not use force but through persuasion that these measures would result in public good and it is recorded that after some of these measures took effect, especially those on property, court cases on breach of property also went down.


      • That, my Friend is EXACTLY what I meant, this being the way governments trick people into submission:
        -vote them based on their vague suggestions/promises
        -accept promulgated laws based on modified versions of their promises, which were deliberately presented in a more acceptable form prior to voting
        -face prosecution for failing to honour laws which are falsified versions of false promises
        -accept that as democracy, or be charged with treason


        • makagutu says:

          In the case of Solon he was asked by the people who couldn’t agree on either side to be their lawgiver. I would therefore not impugn on him what we rightly do to our politicians.

          On the case of Lycurgus, he ascended to the throne because of his lineage and resigned the throne after giving the citizens these laws which most survived him for over 500 years


  2. violetwisp says:

    “to the end that their youth might be accustomed to such spectacles and not be afraid to see a dead body” I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dead body. I can see how it would be useful to stop the spread of superstition but it would also be interesting to know how much it helps people prepare more realistically for death.


    • makagutu says:

      I have seen my fair share of dead bodies. The lifelessness in the bodies stay with you for so long.
      I don’t however think it has prepared me for death in any way


  3. john zande says:

    Lycurgus sounds like quite the man.


  4. One thing I’d like to add about reviewing these visionaries of the past is to keep the proper perspective which is, in this case, the Greco-Roman Period. All too often, modern critiques of historical figures focus on their failings as seen from a 21st century viewpoint. For example, Thomas Jefferson’s contribution to establishing civil rights as legal precepts has been overshadowed in recent years by his ownership of slaves, some of his personal views on race, as well as his relationship with Sally Hemings. But at that time, those things were not seen so negatively as they are now. Although I dislike this term, history truly is “morally relative.”


    • makagutu says:

      I will keep that in mind. Plutarch who was not far removed from them points out a few of their weaknesses.


      • Mak, no criticism of this post was intended. I was responding to this statement: “I will not write of their failures, call it bias, but that is not my interest for the moment. Anyone interested can write about that.”

        Plutarch lived 6 centuries after Solon and 8 centuries after Lycurgus. That’s 3 and 4 times, respectfully, the span between Jefferson and today. If 21st century morality shouldn’t be applied to the 18th century, then I’m not sure how relevant Plutarch’s biographical accounts of their personal failings truly are. Although, they may be quite interesting to read.

        What’s important now, which you’ve addressed very well, is Solon’s contribution to democracy and Lycurgus’ contribution to the notion of equality. The fact that the latter was a militarist is repulsive to me, but should my 21st century hindsight morality even apply?


        • makagutu says:

          Bob you know very well that I would accept criticism and insights from you. I see no problem there. I see what you mean.

          Plutarch in talking about their failures compares two leaders for example he did compare the government of Romulus and Theseus, Numa and Lycurgus and so on.

          And thanks for your comments and insights.


  5. Eric Alagan says:

    Looks like the citizens had the freedom to choose – from one 🙂


    • makagutu says:

      In the case of Solon, the rich were happy with him because he was a land owner and the poor because he cared about them. Funny, that in a commonwealth, they could only find one suitable candidate


  6. Aquileana says:

    Excellent review on Plutarch´s book…
    Thanks for providing details on Solon and Lycurgus…
    I have the impression that Lycurgus made a great contribution to improve the life of the polis with those laws regarding communal eating places and strict education for the youth.

    Best wishes, Aquileana 🙂


    • makagutu says:

      I think he did a good job. His laws outlived him for so many years after but when the people stopped following them, Greece came tumbling down like the proverbial house of cards


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